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Producer/director Rudy Gaskins directs 50 Cent in a promo series for Spike TV. Below, he's in a helicopter to shoot New York City aerials for an American Express industrial voiced by Joan Baker.
Ask Rudy #3:
Casting: What's Your Process
For Selecting Voice Talent?
Top creative director/producer Rudy Gaskins works with clients to find the best voice for a product. Who gets the nod and why? Rudy explains in Part 3 of this exclusive VoiceOverXtra series.
By Rudy Gaskins
CEO & Executive Creative Director
Push Creative
Q: What is your process for casting voice-over talent?
The nature of different jobs can sometimes greatly shape the way you go about casting talent.
As such, there’s no one way that I do it, but the most dominant process goes like this:
1. An elaborate branding process ensues by which the client and I determine the nature of the voice that will best represent the product.
2. I do my best to draft a description that goes with the script that goes to agents and/or casting directors, who will pull together a collection of voices in the form of an audition reel.
3. I typically pick up these auditions on an online casting site. is my preferred service for this.
4. I usually know within five seconds of an audition whether it’s remotely close to the sound I have in mind for the product.
When a voice stands out as being right, I listen more and eventually include it in my top three or five for a final review.
I pick a first and second choice and sometimes a third. The reason for the three choices is availability.
Q: How do you determine which voices to reject?
No client in his right mind spends one second “rejecting” voices. Casting a voice is a “selection” process, not a “rejection” process.
The client is armed with all the criteria and ephemeral data needed to know when he hears the perfect voice for his product.
The process is one of listening for the voice that hits the bull’s eye.
I know many actors suffer under this myth that they are experiencing “rejection” as part of the job, but it’s simply not the reality unless you come to the studio naked with a born-to-lose tattoo on your chest.
Imagine that you are in an Armani clothing store looking for an outfit for a special event. You’ll know it when you see it, and you engage in a process of finding it.
You don’t engage in a process of rejecting everything else. In fact, there may be outfits you would have preferred to have if you had more money.
Q: When is scale talent more appropriate than celebrity talent?
Almost always. Scale talent is the predominant muscle in the industry.
The reason is that these voices come untainted by preconceived consumer notions about the celebrity personality – notions that often outweigh the focus the advertiser wants on his product.
Another factor is that scale talent is a hundred times less expensive than celebrities.
Finally, scale talent is far more pliable and available to deliver the specific, perhaps offbeat characterization that may go against a particular celebrity’s personal brand.
Celebrity talent is used when it is believed that:
  • the product will be elevated by the stature of the celebrity,
  • they possess a sound quality that will be familiar to consumers without the consumer really knowing why.
And, celebrity talent is used because producers want the pleasure and excitement of working with them. Yeah, it’s true.
The client pays through the nose just for the chance to be in the recording session with a celebrity, not to mention the photo ops and publicity.
Q: What's the difference between working with celebrity talent and scale talent?
When you work with celebrities you generally have very little directing to do.
You chose the celebrity because of who they are - a personality. So just let them do their thing and be the personality you hired.
The celebrity has almost always worked with many more directors than you have worked with celebrities, so it’s to my advantage to simply let their immense talent shine and allow me to shine.
If you have formal training as a director - rare in the voice-over industry - you will understand when the actor, celebrity or otherwise, needs support and how to give it to them.
You will establish a rapport that creates space for creative collaboration.
On the other hand, when working with scale talent, you’re free of a predefined “personality.”
You’re starting with a clean slate.
In this way, you are expected to offer guidance to help the actor understand the vision for the spot and to create what will be the personality of the product.
But whether working with scale or celebrity talent, the director must be equally prepared to answer any and all questions about the script and the intended vision for the work at hand.
Q: Have you ever heard a regular, off-the-street person with a great voice and used them to do professional voice-over?
I have never done this, but have heard stories of how this approach has failed others who attempted it.
A great voice by itself is of little use if it isn’t trained.
You would agree that a concert pianist has remarkable dexterity with her hands, but you would hardly ask her to perform surgery as a result. Whatever the quality of the voice, there is trained and untrained.
Also See:
Emmy-winning producer Rudy Gaskins is CEO and Executive Creative Director of Push Creative Inc., a branding services company providing strategic marketing, graphic design and video/film production for TV broadcast networks and corporations. Clients include Lexus, FOX News Channel, BET, American Express, Spike TV, ABC Television, History Channel, MSNBC, and NBC Sports. Drawing on his former experience as a filmmaker and writer/producer/director for PBS, Gaskins has recently expanded Push Creative’s production scope to include program development, and is actively developing projects in several genres. He also coaches professional and aspiring voice-over actors in the development of performance technique. He is co-writer of Secrets of Voice-Over Success by Joan Baker (pictured with Rudy), with whom he also partners in offering voice-over training.
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Comments (12)
Tom H
1/4/2010 at 9:17 AM
It's encouraging to think of the process as a seiection vs. rejection process. I just hope I can truly incorporate that idea.
Deborah Gear
12/30/2009 at 10:05 AM
Typical Rudy ... sooo knowledgable about the industry, and SO supportive of the talent! We can only hope we run into producers and casting directors with his enthusiasm and grace. Dreamy.
Rudy Gaskins
12/26/2009 at 3:28 PM
A big thanks to all of you who have read the "Ask Rudy" series here at VoiceOverXtra. Your questions and comments are very welcome and really make all the difference. It has been my pleasure to share my experience in the business of producing media that requires voiceover actors, and I know there is so much more to talk about. Please feel free to submit your questions and comments, and we will continue to get underneath the stuff that builds VO careers.
Ask away!
John Florian
12/24/2009 at 3:56 PM
Hi Sara,
Welcome to VoiceOverXtra! We're here to help - and more of Rudy's Q&As are coming ...
12/24/2009 at 2:48 PM
I have enjoyed 13 years as a working voiceover performer and I have never heard or read the kind of behind-the-scenes insight and brilliant nuggets shared by VoiceOverXtra and Rudy Gaskins. I know Rudy from working with him at Court TV and always respected his skills as a director, but now I appreciate his point of view on the process we go through, and it’s helpful to recognize myself as part of a larger process. This is my first introduction to VoiceOverXtra and I will be checking in from now on. Thank you Rudy for taking the time out to share your self- BRAVO. I look forward to working with you again in the future.
David Maciolek
12/23/2009 at 5:08 PM
Sage advice, Rudy. Nice concise strategy on the selection process, and the pros and cons of working with celeb and scale talent. Obviously a man who knows his way around a microphone, and a camera. One more question: Did 50 Cent try to sell you Vitamin Water?
12/23/2009 at 2:11 PM
Great insight, Rudy. Thanks for the articles and the information.
Catherine Tamara
12/22/2009 at 9:33 PM
A positive, refreshing, yet honest view of what it takes to make it into the business we call Voice-Over Acting. Many Thanks!
Stanley Baker
12/22/2009 at 2:04 PM
Very good articulation concerning the thought process of picking voice talent! After reading the "Rudy Series" I want Rudy or someone like Rudy to be the pro I work with on such matters! You hear that world!!! Give me Rudy or "Rudy," or give me no other. This guy knows what he's doing, apparently.
BP Smyth
12/22/2009 at 11:58 AM
Great article Rudy. You certainly shed light on important issues we all have questions about. Thank you for sharing this information.

On the issue of the "selection" of a particular voice talent over all of the auditions submitted, I agree with you that those responsible for the "selection" don't sit there and say to themselves, let's see who we can "reject." Whatever semantic one chooses to use to define not getting something, doesn't change the end result. You either got the gig, or you didn't. And, the disappointment in not getting the gig is no less painful. We all want to win. It's the American way.

Sande Sherr
12/22/2009 at 9:01 AM
Great article. You made the non-rejection angle so clear! Thanks again for your "other side of the glass" insight.
Larry Culley
12/21/2009 at 10:41 PM
Mr. Gaskins, you continue to educate me in the intricacies of the voice actor profession. Can't wait to read your next gem!
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